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By Loren Kopff
@LorenKopff on Twitter
To say that Gahr High’s Josh Haley was dealing in his first San Gabriel Valley League start of the season would be a tremendous understatement. Just ask Warren High, which witnessed the junior left hander allow only two hits and face three over the minimum this past Tuesday afternoon.
When the dust had settled, Haley’s stellar pitching and a balanced offensive attack allowed the Gladiators to whitewash the Bears 10-0 at Tom Bergeron Field. The Gladiators, who are the top ranked team in the California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section’s Division II top 10 poll, improved to 15-5 overall and 3-0 in league. In addition, Gahr has now won seven in a row.
“Throughout the week at school and at practice, I was thinking about Warren,” Haley said. “It’s our biggest rival in the SGVL. We prepared for them really well and coming off a [six-game] winning streak going into this game, we felt really great.”
“I was real excited for him to take the next step as far as hitting spots and being efficient,” said Gahr head coach Gerardo Perez. “I think sometimes when you strike out people, you have a tendency to get the pitch total up and before you know it, you don’t get to complete the game.”
Haley got ahead of all three batters he faced in the top of the first but fell behind all three he faced in the second. However, he bounced back to strike out Eric Menjivar and get the next two batters to ground out. Frank Garcia would break up the no-hit bid with two outs in the third and Mike Pagan singled to begin the sixth for the only two Warren hits.
More impressive was the job Haley did over the final three innings. Through the first four frames, he had thrown 60 pitches. But he got three groundouts on four pitches in the fifth, then threw another four pitches in the sixth while getting a double play from his defense. Finally, he put an end to his performance with a six-pitch seventh inning. Haley never threw more than six pitches to any batter.
“That’s where I think maturity comes in,” Perez said. “I think sometimes he would push himself to where he probably would not be able to finish the game.”
“In the dugout, just looking up at the scoreboard, we had a seven-run lead and I felt real comfortable knowing that all I had to do was throw strikes,” Haley said. “That’s all I was thinking about.”
Haley would help his own cause in the second inning when he led off the frame by reaching on an error and scored on a single from senior designated hitter Chase Alvarado. But to make his job more comfortable, the hosts tacked on two more runs in the third complements of a two-run home run from sophomore shortstop Michael Perez, his second of the season.
But the hitting barrage was far from done as senior center fielder Oscar Carvajal’s infield knock brought in Alvarado, who was hit by a pitch. That was followed by a triple from senior second baseman Jesus Salazar and two pitches later, a sacrifice fly from senior right fielder Jeremy Sifuentes increased the lead to 7-0.
“That’s the type of team we are this year,” Haley said. “We just score in the first inning or defensively, we have something great happen. In that second inning, even though I fell behind, I kept my poise. I just knew that our offense was ready and all I had to do was throw strikes and make contact and adjustments.”
Junior pinch hitter Joel Casillas would triple in Michael Perez in the fifth and in the next inning, the coach’s son would tack on two more runs batted in with a single down the left field line, plating sophomore center fielder Delvan Gomez, who had just come in the game in the top half of the inning, and Salazar. Gahr would pound out 11 hits and ever starter had at least one hit or score a run.
“We do a really good job of at-bats,” Gerardo Perez said. “Now, the end results may not always be hits. But we kind of do a good job of grinding out at-bats and doing that aspect of it pretty well.”
But the story of the game was still Haley, who threw the team’s second complete game of 2016, and improved his mark to 5-2. He had not won since Apr. 6, a 9-3 decision at Hart High in the first game of a doubleheader, and has won three in a row.
“I think today was a very important day; I think today he grew the most,” Gerardo Perez said. “He did well and I’m excited for him.”
During Gahr’s seven-game winning streak, the pitching staff, which also includes Alvarado, senior Christian Corral and juniors Samuel Arizaga and Anthony Moreno, among others, has combined to allow eight runs. It’s that type of work that has kept Gahr on top of the division for three straight weeks. The Gladiators are also seventh in the Southern Section, 14th in the state and 51st in the nation according to MaxPreps.
“I think we were punched a little in the mouth in the National Classic [Mar. 28-31] and I thought we responded in a positive way,” Gerardo Perez said. “We grew and we went out to Hart and that was a really good, challenging day in so many areas. We played well and I think that was kind of a big step forward. Hopefully we can continue to build off of the improvements we’ve made.”
“Coach will bring it up every practice or every other practice,” Haley said of being No. 1 in the division. “We just kind of not let it affect us because if we think about it too much, it will get to us and we can come out and play real sloppy.”
Gahr visited Warren today in search of a season sweep and will travel to Paramount High on Tuesday in the front end of a home and home series with the Pirates.
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